The Making of the Watercolor 180fx® Laminate Series

Let’s go behind the scenes to learn how artist Kathleen “Fred” Streitenberger and the Formica Group North American Design Team brought the mesmerizing Watercolor series to life.

Embracing the Handcrafted Design Trend

In 2019, the Formica Group Design Team embarked on a new artistic journey as it looked to create fresh patterns that embodied the handcrafted design trend and attempted to answer the ever-pressing design question, “What’s next?” 

The answer was a year in the making and culminated in the unprecedented 180fx® Laminate Watercolor series, featuring Watercolor Steel and Watercolor Porcelain.  A member of the Formica Group Design team, Kathleen Streitenberger, a classically trained painter, led the imaginative charge.

Here’s a glimpse into the creative process that brought the Watercolor series to life:

The team was intrigued by the concept of providing an impression of marble that wasn’t actually marble. They developed an artist’s brief and mood board exploring the type of pattern they were looking to initiate.  

Streitenberger began by doing free work in her garage. “I was inspired and intrigued by the abstract and fluid energy that seemed to take on a life of its own while making Watercolor Marble,” she said. “The work was created with color pigment, alcohol and forced air. It’s a delicate balance of control and letting go – letting go of expectations and letting the color find its way while attempting to create structure with forced air around the large media.”

Streitenberger used bright blue and turquoise to develop multiple pieces of artwork. This bright color also made it easier to separate each of the four-color stages. 


Artwork is scanned

A high-resolution scanner was used to capture each of the artwork concepts in a digital format.

The scans of the original artwork show beautiful variations. 

Digital pattern stitching

The digital pattern was then “stitched” together using the most interesting components of each scan. The design team then reviewed the layout and marked changes for the printer. 

Direction on colors

After approving the layout and giving color direction, the team then had a multitude of color choices to move forward with in the lab. These prints are akin to a four-color photograph and give the lab a defined starting point. 

Color variations

Once colors were selected, it was time to move on to using the lab cylinders. This machine is just like a full production printing press, only with 24-inch-wide cylinders. All colors were made using four-color process printing – cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). The lab generated many variations of each color from light to dark to fully explore the options for each pattern. 

The team selected two final colors and named them Watercolor Steel and Watercolor Porcelain.

Approving production on the Watercolor series

As a final quality step, Streitenberger approved the first full production of the Watercolors series.

The ultimate design captures the translucent and serene qualities of marble, soft gradations and delicate, watery veining in a new and modern way.

A Successful Endeavor

Following its launch in 2020, the Watercolor series met with rave reviews. In particular, the patterns stole the show at their first public appearance with media and visitors at KBIS. But even beyond the residential market, Formica Group has received excellent feedback from commercial designers who appreciate a piece of art as a durable laminate surface. And now, everyone knows the creative design story behind these beautiful Watercolor patterns. 

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